28 Mar

Funding a Movement

Introducing the New Grantee Partners of the Red Umbrella Fund

The Red Umbrella Fund received 130 eligible applications from sex worker-led groups and networks during our Global Call for Applications last year. All these applications were reviewed and scored by our 11-member Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) and, after many days of deliberation among the sex worker activists, 26 groups were selected for a new grant. We are thrilled to announce that the total grant amount for all our new grants in 2017 was just over 1 million US dollars!

In fact, since the creation of the Red Umbrella Fund in 2012, we have made 129 core funding grants to 91 different groups and networks for a total amount of just under 4 million US dollars.

Selecting diversity

In the selection of grantee partners, the Programme Advisory Committee always confirms that the final selection reaches a diversity of groups and networks, including those working at local level, like Sex Workers Advisory Network of Sudbury (SWANS) in Canada or Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Trans de Quito in the capital of Ecuador, those working more at national level, like All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) in India, Desiree Alliance in the US, and Organización Nacional de Activistas por la Emancipación de la Mujer (ONAEM) in Bolivia, as well as those working at regional level such as RedTraSex in Latin America. As well as a diversity of reach, the PAC ensures that groups that work with women, men and trans sex workers are all included. Some new grantee partners have a more specific focus, such as Ashraya in India that works with sex workers who are living with HIV or Rainbow Mirrors Uganda that focuses on young trans sex workers. Another grantee partner, TAMPEP, was recently transformed into a regional network of migrant sex workers in Europe.

Registered or not

The grantee selection includes some groups that are relatively new (two years old or less), such as the Surinamese Coalition of Sex Workers (SUCOS) in Surinam and the migrant sex worker group Red Edition in Austria. About one in three grants are made to groups that are not formally registered, like Asociación de Mujeres Liquidámbar in El Salvador. Reasons for not being registered can be multiple; sometimes it is a political choice of the group, in other cases the registration process is complex, lengthy, or registration is simply denied to self-organising sex workers. For just over one-third of the grantee partners, like for Strumphet Alliance Network in Fiji, this is the first international grant the group has ever received. Other groups, like Organisasi Perubahan Sosial Indonesia (OPSI) in Indonesia and Parapli Rouz in Mauritius, have more experience with international funds but need the Red Umbrella Fund grant to support their organizational development and human rights advocacy costs that are hard to cover with the restricted project and services-focused funding more commonly accessible to them.

Safety

Whereas all grantee partners work in countries where sex work is highly stigmatized and criminalized one way or another, the safety concerns differ greatly per country. In some countries violence against sex workers is extremely high, and some groups have a strong focus on violence prevention and trauma healing services. Many leaders in the movement have shared receiving threats or direct violence related to their public identity as a sex worker. This risk is often further increased when someone also identifies with or demonstrates support to LGBTQ communities. Arbitrary arrests, police abuse and brothel evictions are common among many of our grantee partners. HIV/AIDS Research and Welfare Center (HARC) in Bangladesh, for example, has organized strongly around brothel evictions. Numerous groups limit their online presence, and one of our grantee partners remains anonymous in our communications to prevent potential repercussions.

 Visibility

Other groups put in much effort to increase their public visibility. Macedonian sex worker organization STAR-STAR, for example, has organized impressive demonstrations full of red umbrellas and, in December 2017, attracted visibility through their Skopje Red Light District art performance as shown in this video. Also Men Against Aids Youth Group (MAAYGO) in Kenya, Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) in the UK and Unidas en la Esperanza (UNES) in Paraguay have used video as a tool to get their messages out. AMMAR Cordoba in Argentina consistently shows their presence at demonstrations, events, and local festivals and markets.

Dilemma

We are proud to have been able to contribute to getting more and better money to the sex workers’ rights movements, and we thank our institutional and individual donors for their support. But it is also clear that there is a still a significant gap for the movement in accessing the funds needed for their organizing and activism. For two-thirds of the grantee partners, this is their first grant from the Red Umbrella Fund.

“It is exciting to have a fund where we, sex workers, are in the driver’s seat but also very difficult. Each year, we make new grants to sex worker groups in different parts of the world and these groups do such great and important work. But it also means that each year we have to say ‘sorry you were not selected’ to the majority of the groups that apply and this is hard. We know how hard it is because we have that experience too.”
– Tara Burns, International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Red Umbrella Fund

Whereas it is great to be able to support new grantee partners, it also means opportunities for longer-term partnership from the Red Umbrella Fund have not been available for all groups that we would have liked to continue to support.

More grantmaking

Next month, the International Steering Committee (ISC) of the Red Umbrella Fund will come together to make new decisions about the Red Umbrella Fund’s strategies and priorities. Follow us on social media to make sure you don’t miss our next call for applications.

 

By Nadia van der Linde
Coordinator, Red Umbrella Fund

Additional introductions and information about the new grantee partners can be found on the Red Umbrella Fund’s Facebook page.

15 Dec

Minorities in a Movement

OGERA stands with refugee 2017Uniting LBT and Refugee Sex Workers

Red Umbrella Fund’s Programme Associate Louise visited OGERA (the Organization for Gender Empowerment and Rights Advocacy) in Uganda earlier this year to listen and learn from this unique group. Why are they organized specifically around lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LBT) and refugee sex workers? And how do they manage to overcome the many cultural and language barriers within this diverse membership?

Minorities in the Sex Worker Movement

OGERA is a Kampala-based group that unites and empowers lesbian, bisexual, transgender (LBT) and refugee sex workers. The group opposes gender based violence and advocates for decriminalization of sex work. OGERA takes a stand against the ways in which nationality, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and choice of profession negatively impact sex workers’ lives day to day. It is the only sex worker-led organization that reaches out specifically to refugee sex workers in the area. 

Shamilah Batte, a refugee sex worker herself, set up the organization in 2013. She realized that the wider sex worker movement, largely led by heterosexual women, lacked representation of other minority groups within the community. According to Shamilah:

“Sex work is perceived to be done by heterosexual women only. For female sex workers, sexual orientation is often not questioned due to the assumption that they identify as heterosexuals. And the needs of refugee sex workers are neglected altogether. I could not just stand and watch my fellow sex workers face all sorts of violations, mainly because they could not access health information and education, treatment and legal representation. All this inspired me to come out and be a voice for the voiceless.”

Criminalization, Stigma and Violence

In 2016, the Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (WONETHA), a fellow member of the Uganda Network for Sex Workers Organization (UNESO), submitted a report to the United Nations to shed light on the human rights violations sex workers in Uganda face. Ugandan law criminalizes sex work. WONETHA’s report explains how this feeds into structural systems of police abuse, rape, harassment and public humiliation of sex workers.

Refugee women sex workers as well as lesbian, bisexual and trans people not only face similar forms of discrimination and stigma as other sex workers, but they face additional oppression based on their sexual identifies and their status as refugees. For example, the law in Uganda also criminalizes homosexuality. In 2014, the Ugandan parliament passed the Anti-Pornography Act to also operate against ‘prostitution’ which is perceived as immoral. As a result, it increases social stigmas, police violence and harassment. In combination with this bill, criminalization laws and high levels of homophobia contribute to further discrimination that denies sex workers’ access to health services such as HIV treatment.

Group photo OGERA

Stories of Stigma and Abuse

OGERA’s offices are located in a remote area of Kampala. The small but bright office, where the organisation welcomes members and guests, is protected by a high security gate. One of the rooms is used by members to do each other’s hair or make-up, as an additional income generating activity. The staff uses a car to do its outreach work in the refugee camps which are not so close by.

At the office Louise met with five transwomen who shared their personal stories of abuse and physical violence. Mainly from clients but also from the general community. The persecution they face from society due to their sexual and gender identities is a major burden and puts their livelihood and even lives at risk.

At a Refugee Brothel

Later that day, while the sun was blazing outside, Louise was shown around a refugee brothel in a small enclosed neighborhood in Rubaga. While children were running outside and there was ample noise of people passing by, it was relatively quiet inside. In a room that seemed like a shed made of wood, she met with about twenty refugee members of OGERA. They had fled from countries such as Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan.

They all shared stories of their daily realities, such as clients who refused to pay for their services. This is a common and risky situation due the high level of stigma against refugees and sex workers, that is further complicated by language barriers. It can be complicated to clarify services and boundaries with a client when you have no language in common.

They also shared their struggles of finding fulfilling employment other than sex work. There is no state income available for refugees in Uganda and sex work is one of the few ways to earn some money for refugees. Louise noticed how they all listened intently to each other’s experiences as well and continuously combined pain and serious conversation with jokes and laughter.

Successes

OGERA logoOGERA is a relatively well-known sex worker organization in the country, although it has only existed a few years. It has won the “sex work organization of the year” award and currently Shamilah coordinates the national network (UNESO). The group has established strong partnerships with various human rights based organisations and funders and contributed to international human-rights based publications about refugees and sex work (here and here).

One of OGERA’s core activities is to establish dialogues with health service providers and sensitize health workers to the issues faced by sex workers. The aim of this strategy is to overcome discrimination at health facilities. Sex workers also frequently face housing and employment discrimination. This occurs when landlords refuse to rent spaces to sex workers or when employers outside the sex worker community discriminate them based on their work, gender identity, sexual orientation and nationality and therefore hinder sex workers to find work in other fields. OGERA’s direct peer to peer support work and dialogues have improved LBT and refugee sex workers’ access to health and legal services.

World Refugee Day

OGERA World Refugee Day 2017

OGERA celebrating World Refugee Day in Uganda

Many sex worker groups organize around important international days for human rights advocacy, such as 3 March, 2 June or 17 December. When Louise visited Kampala, OGERA was in the midst of planning its activities for World Refugee Day on 20 June. This yearly event is an opportunity to commemorate the strength of the millions of refugees worldwide and to show support for families forced to flee their countries of origin. OGERA’s founder Shamilah has faced such hardship when she was only 6 years old. She grew up in Rwanda during the emerging war between the Hutu and the Tutsi in 1994. When the conflict escalated into a genocide, she and her mother were forced to flee their home to find safety in Uganda.

For the World Refugee Day, OGERA rented a football field near a sex worker hotspot in the center of town. The group chose this location because it was accessible enough to draw the community in while secure enough for the safety of the organisation’s team and members.

We later learned that the event had been a success. Sex workers from diverse countries showed up, both members and new contacts, and discussed issues affecting them and spoke about the importance of solidarity amongst the refugee sex worker community. Shamilah shared the following with the African LGBTI media platform Kuchu Times:

“This day means a lot to OGERA considering the fact that this one of our key target groups. It creates awareness about the issues that affect refugee sex workers in a foreign country like Uganda.”

Despite complications due to the language barriers, this event allowed diverse refugee sex workers to exchange experiences amongst each other in a relatively safe space. And despite the hardships they face, OGERA members find strength in shared moments of joy, singing and dancing. These experiences help to build feelings of empowerment and solidarity among the community.

Let’s work together as sex workers to create a bigger voice. However, we should respect, embrace and recognize diversity within the sex worker movement.”
Shamilah Batte

This blog post was written by Josja Dijkshoorn, who supported the Red Umbrella Fund’s grant-making process in the summer months in 2017 after her BA International Studies. She currently studies Gender Studies at Utrecht University.

03 Nov

Breaking Barriers to Participation

Five Years of Participatory Grantmaking at the Red Umbrella Fund

By Jurre Anema

In the past half year I had the honor of writing my thesis at the Red Umbrella Fund office in Amsterdam. I was introduced to the global movement of sex worker rights activists and had the opportunity to speak with some of the great individuals that are playing a big role in their local, regional or global movement. My objective was to explore how the participation of sex workers at the Red Umbrella Fund has been organized and experienced. As the Red Umbrella Fund just celebrated its fifth anniversary, the Fund is making time to reflect and document its experience in order to further improve its work in the future.

Participatory Processes

“I always thought that the Red Umbrella Fund is what the world needed, because I really love the idea of changing where the power is.” (research respondent)

There is much academic literature about participation, outlining different levels and qualities of participation processes. Analyzing the processes of the Red Umbrella Fund, there cannot be a doubt that the Red Umbrella Fund is a highly participatory organization, functioning in the top levels of all participatory models. Participation is at the heart of the Fund and at the basis of every major process, initiative and decision. The Red Umbrella Fund has made more than one hundred grants to sex worker-led groups and directly involved over forty sex workers from diverse regions in its decision making structures.

Time for Reflections

The Red Umbrella Fund was created in 2012. Five years after its first grants were made, it is now time to share some of the challenges and reflections I captured from people that have been engaged in different decision making processes at the Fund. Many challenges that the Red Umbrella Fund and its participants experience are not easily overcome; they are part of working with a global and diverse movement and a participatory organization.

Barriers to Break

Based on the interviews I had with people involved in the Red Umbrella Fund I distill five key challenges to participation that the Red Umbrella Fund struggles with: language barriers; distance; knowledge and experience; safety and security; and resource limitations.

  • Overcoming language barriers

Language is seen as one of the biggest barriers by respondents in my study. The Red Umbrella Fund’s peer review panel, the PAC, functions entirely in English. The International Steering Committee (ISC), basically the board, currently works in three languages (currently English, Russian and Spanish) which is quite a feat. But if someone does not speak any of those languages there simply is no possibility to participate in Red Umbrella Fund’s internal decision making processes so far. This excludes the majority  of the global sex workers’ movement.

And for the people who do participate, those who are native English speakers have an obvious advantage. They do not need an interpreter for conversations and can therefore often respond and articulate their statements more easily than non-native speakers can. However, the non-English speaking people on the ISC are well-accommodated: documents are translated for them and at every online and offline meeting an interpreter is present. Furthermore, in both ISC and PAC meetings the participants are aware of the different levels of English and try to articulate clearly and talk slowly. This way the people that actually can participate have the opportunity to fully engage in discussions.

  • Overcoming geographical distance

As the Red Umbrella Fund works globally but has just one small office in Amsterdam, most communications take place online through Skype, phone and email. Online meetings require technology and are complicated to plan when the time difference between participants may be ten hours or more. And there is a recognition that not all sex worker rights activists and groups are able to be equally active online, or are able to safely engage online as sex workers and human rights defenders. Usually once a year, as long as resources allow, a face-to-face meeting takes place. Such meetings provide valuable opportunities to build trust and understanding and have more in-depth discussions and focused time together. But they are also relatively expensive and require much time commitment from all involved. In addition, visa restrictions have challenged the Fund in being able to get all participants together at face-to-face meetings.

  • Recognizing and building knowledge and experience

An extensive educational background and grantmaking experience are not necessary to participate in the Red Umbrella Fund’s processes. Instead, activist experience and knowledge of the movements, also at local level, are highly valued and relevant. But having experience in a board, with strategic planning or with annual budgets can come in handy.

“The International NGOs, they always put barriers for sex workers to apply for things. I don’t see that with the Red Umbrella Fund. They do not ask for degrees, they do not ask for bachelors, they just ask for community people to put in something that makes sense.” (research respondent)

But lack of relevant knowledge and experience are perceived as a barrier for (potential) participants. People with no or limited experience in regional or global networks or processes might not feel confident to apply for the ISC or PAC. This makes sense as strategic decision-making at a global level can be difficult, something that also activists with experience in the global movement admit. However, much can be learned through participating in Red Umbrella Fund committees. Respondents in my study said they gained much knowledge and developed new skills as participants in the Fund’s decision making processes.

  • Safety and Security Concerns

The safety and security risks that many sex workers experience also affect their opportunities for participating in Red Umbrella Fund processes. Because sex work is criminalized and penalized in many places and levels of stigma and discrimination are high, not all sex worker rights activists are willing or able to come out publicly as a sex worker. Or to be potentially identified as such. It is likely to affect future job opportunities if they wish to switch careers. In some countries, children of sex workers are being refused access to schools. Migrant sex workers, particularly undocumented migrants, may opt to stay under the radar as much as possible. Although the Red Umbrella Fund respects the diverse realities of sex workers and understands that not everyone can always identify publicly as a sex worker, this can increase the threshold for some activists to engage.

  • Resource Limitations

Some of the aforementioned barriers can be addressed depending on the resources that the Red Umbrella Fund can make available to address them. There are ways to increase accessibility. For example, adding an extra language to the ISC is possible, but will increase costs and further complicate internal processes. As one respondent argued: “Every time, that requires a balance which is the ISC’s decision around how much money it is worth to have a process be more accessible, or be more participatory, or be more inclusive.”

Accessibility (i.e. mitigating or destroying the barriers) becomes a careful balancing act between allowing as many diverse participants as possible to engage and keeping the organization operational at the same time. It is a well-known dilemma for participatory initiatives. Especially for the Red Umbrella Fund, which aims to have at least 70% of its annual budget spent directly on grants. This means that its overhead and other costs have to remain low.

“I think the Red Umbrella Fund does what it does with the resources that it has, to the best of its ability.” (research respondent)

Inclusiveness

The different barriers described in this blog are a few selected broad categories and do not do justice to all the different challenges and problems faced by sex workers who want to participate in the Red Umbrella Fund’s processes. One so far unmentioned obstacle is the limited number of spaces available for people to participate. Many very relevant and qualified people have applied to join Red Umbrella Fund committees several times but have never yet been selected to join, which can also be frustrating and discouraging.

The diversity within the global movement leads to an unique situation for each and every single activist. But, as one of the respondents from the ISC highlighted:

“There is a big awareness [at the Red Umbrella Fund] of there being a diversity of sex workers and there is a big awareness of trying to be inclusive, and trying to pay attention to sex workers who aren’t usually included, or who aren’t usually heard.”

Overall, the people who have participated in the organization demonstrate strong support for its work and processes. On to the next five years!

 

Jurre Anema is a sociology student at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. As part of his master thesis he conducted research at the Red Umbrella Fund about their participatory processes. If you are interested in this study and want to receive more information or a copy of his thesis, please contact the Red Umbrella Fund at: info [at] Redumbrellafund [dot] org.

12 Jul

Not Bad Migrants

The passport you hold determines a lot of your privileges, access and protection. I have always been able to benefit from a blue American passport— never being questioned while traveling, never having much difficulty obtaining a work or study visa abroad. My passport, white skin, and blonde hair provide me the privilege to exist and move through the world relatively freely. But in Eastern Europe, for example, a sex worker’s passport may determine whether she is – even with a legal residence permit – “targeted for rescue, detention and re-socialisation or deportation programs” by the government or NGOs.


Control

Last year I spent five months researching and writing a master’s thesis on human trafficking prevention campaigns and EU, Dutch, and UN human trafficking policies. I focused on migrant sex workers from Eastern Europe in the Netherlands. Much of the literature review included theories on state control of female sexuality, particularly the control of ‘foreign’ women by criminalising migration and victimizing migrant women sex workers.

This research, in addition to volunteering at the Red Umbrella Fund’s office in the Netherlands for the last eight months, has led me to think more about the status and labour conditions of Eastern European migrant workers, particularly sex workers, in the Netherlands. These experiences, including acquiring a Lithuanian passport for myself, have made me realize that our nationality, as well as our gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, and choice of work can greatly impact how we are perceived by the state. Whether we are feared or welcomed, and which rights we get access to.

Migrant Sex Workers in Europe

“There are stereotypes for instance— the hyper-sexualisation of women depending on [her country of origin]. This is also very harsh for us [sex workers], because when we travel from one country to another or go through airports, they assume we are sex workers just because we come from a specific country.”

–Pauline (Whores and Alliances) (link) referring to the abuse and discrimination black migrant sex workers face in Spain.

blog.nika

Red Edition, Austria

Migrant sex workers, depending on where they are from, what they look like, and which passport they hold, are treated differently by law enforcement, border control, and society. Migrant sex workers make up approximately 65% of the sex worker population in Western Europe and about 17% of the sex worker population in Central Europe (link). Migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have been doing sex work as a means to sustain themselves and their families. The International Committee on the Rights of Sex workers in Europe (ICRSE) recently published a policy brief and recommendations on the rights of migrant sex workers. In this brief, ICRSE highlights that the criminalisation of migration and sex work is extremely problematic and dangerous for migrants and migrant sex workers.

“We want migrant sex workers to be seen and understood, to be acknowledged as migrant sex workers.” (link) -Kemal Ordek, Red Umbrella Turkey

Migrant labour

Structural, political, and economic changes in many regions of the world have led to an increase of migrants, particularly women migrants, seeking work in Europe. May this work be in factories or fields, in domestic or sex work, these are women who are working to support themselves and often times, their families. Migrant sex workers need to be included as part of the larger migration patterns and migrant labour movements, rather than how they are often perceived by the public, law enforcement, and media, as victims of human trafficking. The issue that remains is that sex work is not seen as work, but something that someone ‘must have been forced or tricked into’. So if this is the case, how can migrant sex workers, regardless of which passport they have, be seen as autonomous hard working individuals who moved in order to make a living?

TAMPEP, the European Network for HIV/STI Prevention and Health Promotion among Migrant Sex Workers, advocates for the human and civil rights of migrant sex workers in Europe. When sex work is criminalised and migration is increasingly controlled, migrants and migrant sex workers are forced even further underground. They can no longer trust the police or government officials, in fear of being arrested, detained, or deported. This is when migrants turn to third parties (i.e., friends, neighbours, family members, acquaintances, travel agents) to assist them in their migration process. This dependency and lack of ability or perceived ability to access justice increases the risk of exploitation.

How to become a trafficker

Unlike the UN’s Palermo Protocol (The UN’s human trafficking article) which clearly states that a human trafficking offense requires a form of coercion or deceit, the Dutch article 273F 1.3 essentially criminalises assisting a migrant in their journey to the Netherlands even without any coercion or deceit. Under this article, taking someone across the border to the Netherlands is enough to be considered human trafficking.

blog.nika2

SWARM, UK

Felicia Anna, a Romanian sex worker and blogger living and working in Amsterdam, discusses this issue in her blog Behind the Red Light District. Felicia Anna uses the following example to illustrate how damaging and infuriating this law is. Someone is driving through Germany heading to the Netherlands, and he or she sees a woman along the road who is looking for a ride to Amsterdam because she wants to work in the Red Light District. She’s alone, no one has deceived her of the work she will do there, or coerced her to go to Amsterdam. The driver agrees, since he or she is already heading to Amsterdam, and why not help a fellow passenger? Once they have crossed the Dutch border together, the driver of the car is a criminal according to Dutch law and the woman is a victim of human trafficking.

It is important to note that this law article only applies to individuals working in the sex industry, even though trafficking and labour exploitation clearly take place in other sectors too. This is one way the Dutch government has problematized migrant sex workers coming to the Netherlands to do sex work. But if the majority of sex workers in Western Europe are migrants, and many of them come from Eastern European countries, why criminalise someone assisting someone else who wants to do sex work in the Netherlands if it is legal for them to do so?

Demands

Based on their own research among migrant sex workers in Europe and Central Asia, ICRSE identifies the following key demands to policy makers:

  • Support the decriminalisation of sex work in order to ensure (undocumented) migrant sex workers’ access to health and justice.
  • Support migrants’ regularisation and an end of deportation of (undocumented) migrant sex workers.
  • Ensure that asylum seekers, refugees and (undocumented) migrants have access to welfare support to economic and employment opportunities.

Sex worker organizing

blog.nika3

SWARM, UK

Last October I was able to observe the Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting of the Red Umbrella Fund as a note taker. Each year, the PAC reviews the grant applications from sex worker groups all over the world and select new grants to be made. In last year’s selection process, the PAC members noted that there seemed to be quite a few new migrant sex worker groups applying for a grant. Migrant sex workers face discrimination on multiple fronts. They face challenges as sex workers and as migrants, and have unique needs to be met. But they are often not included in migrant organisations and not sufficiently included in most sex worker organisations either. This rise in migrant sex worker groups makes me hopeful in that migrant sex workers are increasingly organizing and making their demands heard. To policy makers, as well as the larger sex workers’ rights movements.

 

This blog was written by Nika Norvila, who supported the work of the Red Umbrella Fund as a volunteer for eight months in 2016 and 2017.

07 Jul

Hints for 2017 Applicants

Dear sex worker friends,

[update: Please note that the 2017 call for applications is now closed. We are not accepting new applications anymore this year.]

The Red Umbrella Fund’s annual call for proposals is open.

If your group or network is sex worker led, recognises sex work as work, and is interested in building and strengthening the sex worker movement – you can apply for funding this year! If you are in doubt about any of these requirements, let us know.

All the information you need is available in our website, including the application forms and guidelines. There are two application forms available – one for groups, and one for networks.

The deadline for submitting applications is 28 July. You still have time to complete an application. And if you have submitted already and want to send an improved version of it, that’s fine too.

We suggest that you carefully read the guidelines we’ve put together. Below we will give you a brief overview and some hints about the process and how you can improve your chances of being selected.

Here is our brief advice:

  • If you have questions about your application, contact the secretariat for more information before 21 July. Don’t submit your application if you are not sure yet. We are glad to give you personalised feedback and advice.
  • Remember that sex workers from different parts of the world will be reviewing your application, so write this applications to your peers. Sex workers know the importance of your work, just remember to describe it really well.
  • Write the application in one of the four languages that we work with – English, Spanish, Russian or French. Applications in Portuguese will also be considered. If you can’t write in these languages, seek help from your community, allies or simply Google translate.
  • Remember that most sex workers reviewing your application are not from your country or region, so you might have to explain things that seem obvious to you!
  • When you select referees, choose people that actually know your group and that will give you a positive feedback. References help Programme Advisory Committee members to evaluate your work and make the best selection, so pick the right ones. Remember to inform your referees about your application and the need of responding to our request.
  • Carefully complete the application form and avoid contradictions. Make sure that the information provided is consistent and relevant for external readers. If it’s only relevant to you and sex workers from your group, explain why.
  • Remember to fill in all fields of the application form and include all the requested details. Groups often fail to explain the nuances of their organisational structures, for instance. Remember that sex workers in the peer review panel don’t expect you to run an NGO with many structures; what they want to know is how you organize your organisation and work and if your group has democratic processes in place.
  • Share your most relevant successes, those that really stand out. The competition is very high and you need to make a case for why those successes are relevant in your context, and how they relate to your vision and future plans.
  • Be clear about describing yourself as a local, national or regional organisation. That helps sex workers reading your application to understand the impact of the work you do. If you claim to be a national or regional organisation, clarify the national and regional scope of your work, membership, etc.
  • Be frank about your challenges and limitations. Sex workers from the Programme Advisory Committee may consider it important to fill in funding gaps and support your group based on your unique needs and challenges.

If you are tired of reading, meet Dennis & just listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duLsl4HqIdg

09 Jun

Call for Applications is now open!

[update: Please note that the 2017 call for applications is now closed.
We are not accepting new applications anymore this year.]

Is your group, organisation or network led by sex workers?

Do you agree that sex work should be recognised as work?

Do you contribute to building and strengthening the sex workers’ rights movement(s)?

The Red Umbrella Fund gives grants to sex worker-led groups and networks that are registered or unregistered. In 2017, we expect to make about 25 core funding grants to local, national and international sex worker-led organisations and networks.

Apply for a grant here!

LIZimage by Liz Hilton

¡La nueva convocatoria global del Fondo Paraguas Rojo 2017 está abierta!

Haz clic aquí para Español.

Фонд «Красный Зонт» открыл прием заявок о соискании грантов на 2017 год!

Нажмите здесь для Pусский!

Notre 2017 Appel à Propositions est maintenant ouvert!

Cliquez ici pour l’application Français!

02 Jun

The Creation of the Red Umbrella Fund

Five years after itsstoryofredumbrellafund creation, the Red Umbrella Fund is proud to publish a part of its history. This report brings out the energy, commitment, and courage of the people involved in setting up this pioneering funding mechanism for sex workers. We have been eager to document this story to share our learning from this process with other activists and donors.

“We never thought this could be possible” – Ana Luz Mamani Silva, Mujeres del Sur

Starting with a meeting on sex work and trafficking in 2008, the story highlights  perspectives and experiences from sex workers and funders involved in the process up to 2012 when the Fund was officially launched.

Discover how the sex workers activists and funders overcame their differences, and worked to build common understanding and consensus. Find out what key ingredients to success have been identified.

“If you’re genuinely interested in supporting our rights, you should set up a fund where we set the priorities ourselves” – Ruth Morgan Thomas, NSWP

RedUmbrellaFund History cover

 

Download the report here

 

31 May

Programme Advisory Committee | Recruitment 2017

What’s the PAC?

Each year, the Red IMG_4655Umbrella Fund publishes a Call for Applications. The Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) reviews the applications and advises the ISC about which new grants to make. PAC members read and score applications and select which applications should be funded by the Red Umbrella Fund. The PAC has 7 – 11 members, the majority (at least 80%) are sex workers. PAC members can stay on the PAC for up to 3 years. The Red Umbrella Fund is committed to have a PAC that is diverse in terms of gender and geography.

Who can apply?

The Red Umbrella Fund is looking for two sex workers or strong allies from:

  • US & Canada
  • Eastern Europe & Central Asia (except Turkey)

Important:

PAC membership is voluntary, unpaid and requires a high level of commitment. PAC members must be able to read 3 – 4 proposals each week during the review period. Positions for allies who are not sex workers are very limited on the PAC and relevant sex worker candidates will be prioritized over allies.

Minimum requirements:

  • Language: able to easily read and discuss funding proposals in English.
  • Availability: able to commit about 5 hours each week to review and score applications between 15 August and 30 September 2017 and to participate in the PAC meeting in Amsterdam (2 – 5 October). Travel and meeting costs will be covered.
  • Affiliation: be part of and/or endorsed by at least one sex worker-led group or network.
  • Internet: PAC participation requires regular email and some Skype contact.

What can you gain?

  • Participating in the PAC is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the Red Umbrella Fund’s grantmaking to sex worker groups around the world.
  • Red Umbrella Fund staff provide individual orientations to all new PAC members.
  • Learn about sex worker activism in different regions and work directly with other sex workers during a three-day meeting in Amsterdam. Many PAC members also find the experience useful for their own fundraising and activism. Feedback from PAC members’ experiences:

 “It’s been very exciting and rewarding to be part of this amazing project.”

“The PAC has given me an insight into other regions and contexts, and understanding of the global sex workers movement.”

“This process and PAC meeting really inspired me and gave me ideas for my organization.”

Read blogs authored by current PAC members HERE and HERE.

How can you apply?

  • Check if you meet all the requirements mentioned above.
  • Get an endorsement from your organisation.
  • Complete the self-nomination form HERE.
  • E-mail the form together with the endorsement letter to dennis@redumbrellafund.org by:
    9 July 2017.

Applicants will be informed of the final decision by 24 July 2017.

For more information go to: www.redumbrellafund.org
For questions, contact: dennis@redumbrellafund.org

15 May

Funders Need to Let Go

“During the conference, it occurred to me that we do not need everyone to become a participatory grantmaker. It makes sense that some organisations may not fully be able commit to this ethos. Rather, what we need is to scale up participatory grantmaking.”

Dennis van Wanrooij, a Programme Associate at the Red Umbrella Fund attended the 2017 EDGE Funders Alliance annual conference in Barcelona. Dennis was enthusiastic to share information about participatory grantmaking and it turned out that many of the conference’s participants were eager to learn more about it!

Dennis blog photo 2

Dennis speaking the closing panel with Chris Stone (OSF) and Sarah Gunther (Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice)

 

Dennis emphasized the need for funders to let go, and to acknowledge the privilege funders have as funders.

“Let’s stop talking about the risks funders make when they cede power. What I want to talk about is the risks sex workers and other populations take when advocating for their rights in highly criminalized and hostile environments. The risks we take, as funders,  pale in comparison.”

dennis blog photo 1

PAC members and volunteer in 2013.

 

As a former member of the Red Umbrella Fund’s peer review panel and current staff member, Dennis has learned that participation is more than just making decisions about grants—it’s about re-thinking your role as a funder on a daily basis, and seeking community participation in all layers of work. In order to achieve a fully participatory process, funder need to partner with, support and learn with their grantees.

Read Dennis’ full blog post published in Alliance magazine here.

06 Mar

China: A Case Study of Sex Worker Organising

Sex work is illegal in China and it is difficult to effectively organise online due to censorship and repercussions. The large geographic distances in China make it difficult to come together in person. This is the Red Umbrella Fund’s third case study, highlighting the work of a sex worker-led organisation in China to improve access to health care and legal services for highly mobile cis men and trans women sex workers.

“People can come in and share. They have a sense of belonging. A sense of identity. We talk about their work and encourage them to share. So we have an environment of people talking with us.”

For the safety of all those involved in the work of this organisation and to avoid jeopardizing the organisation’s important work, the name and details have been anonymized in this case study.

“Academic partners are useful for their expertise in the theories and concepts surrounding sex work and gender. The group has always promoted sex work as work, but has more recently used academic theories gained from partnerships with researchers to improve their approach to advocacy.” 

Despite all the challenges and risks of organising in China, the group has managed to create a drop in centre specifically for cis men and trans women sex workers. This has created a sense of community and a safe space where sex workers can feel comfortable being themselves and where they are able to share experiences and exchange advice. News of the group has been spread by word of mouth through the networks of sex workers.

Read the full case study here.China sex worker organising case study

Read the second case study about APROSMIG in Brazil here.

Read the first case study about Sisonke in South Africa here.